World Down Syndrome Day: All children need equal society and human rights

KARACHI: Dr Jamal Ara, Professor of Medicine at United Medical College Karachi, narrated a story with full of emotions during an awareness program on World Down Syndrome Day held in Department of Public Administration, University of Karachi in collaboration with Kiwani International, Al-Dua Foundation and National Forum for Environment & Health (NFEH).

She said: “I didn’t know about birth of Down syndrome baby in my home. When my baby Maryam was born, knowing her as Down syndrome baby, I went in shock. Despite being doctor myself for two years, I didn’t accept this reality and neglected my daughter. I cried over why this happened to me and thought it impossible to embrace. But then I hearing versus of Holy Quran, I believed in Allah and embraced my daughter. I realized that she was not an ordinary girl but have many special qualities.”

“Story of Maryam and her mother made everyone in the hall very emotional and there was pin drop silence for a while in the hall. Then I started to give more attention to Maryam and get her to enroll in many city schools but they refused to admit her. At last, AMI school on Tipu Sultan Road enrolled my daughter and that was the day when she started studying in a regular school. After few weeks, parents of many children raised concerns about Maryam and were of the view that their kids are not comfortable with her. They also talked about this in teacher parent meeting.”

“The next day I didn’t send daughter to school fearing that she might be expelled. But the same day, teacher called me and asked why Maryam was absent. I told her my fear, but I want to commend school management that took decision and denied to expel my daughter. Administration told me that if other parents want to quit their children they can do that but Maryam will continue to study in their school which gave me more courage,” Prof Jamal Ara appreciated.

Teachers told me about Maryam that she is very keen to do paintings. I also encouraged her to do it and get her enrolled in Indus School of Arts, where she proved herself a very good student. Later, her paintings were exhibited there many times and she was even selected in international competition. She secured good position there as well and now she is a world famous designer and wardrobe, she told with her bright eyes.

Please don’t ignore such kids in your homes, neighbors and outside as they are very special and lovely children. They need love from all of us. Parents should take responsibility and give deaf ears to others who talk about negativity and deficiencies all the time. Such children have very special qualities which can lead them at professional heights. Society should be inclusive for such children, she urged.

Prof. Jamal Ara stressed that other kids should play with down syndrome and other special children and for this there is dire need of massive awareness campaigns in Pakistan. Talking about the disease, Dr. Shireen Khanum, a Paediatrician at Belhoul Hospital in Dubai, told that down syndrome is caused by trisomy 21 and reported one in every 800 live births worldwide.

Every normal kid has 46 chromosomes while children with down syndrome has 47 in numbers. This disease can be now diagnosed during pregnancy at 6 weeks or later and this facility is also available in Pakistan. In Pakistan, many parents due to their ignorance keep such special children in cages and isolated in homes which is very sad, she told.

Dean University of Karachi Prof. Dr. Khalid Iraqi, Chairman Department of Public Administration Syed Shabib-ul-Hasan, Assistant Professor Saima Akhtar and others also spoke in this seminar. Registrar Sir Syed University of Engineering & Technology Engr. Syed Abrar Ali and Chairman National Forum for Environment and Health Naeem Qureshi were also present.

After this seminar, there was a live singing show by special children to celebrate Pakistan Day. There was face painting, free food stalls and other items which were enjoyed by all kids.

Later, there was a tree plantation ceremony in the department to mark Pakistan Day and more than 300 saplings planted with support of National Forum for Environment & Health (NFEH).

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